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Can the Pig and Pony Intelligently Open Cell Doors?

January 8, 2010

In his State of the State speech two days, Governor Schwarznegger used his pig and pony, two animals from the large menagerie he calls home, as a metaphor to demonstrate how progress could be made in Sacramento. The pig and pony, it seems, would combine their talents and smarts to open cans of dog food, a feat that neither of them could do alone. The Governor also proposed to limit prison spending to less than what is spent on universities. The Chronicle puts that spending into perspective:

The proposal represents a major shift in funding priorities for Schwarzenegger. Since he took office in 2003, spending on UC and CSU has fallen 10 percent to $5 billion in 2009-10, while spending on corrections has increased 56 percent to $8.1 billion, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

To many, the harm caused by California’s unsustainable (and unproductive) incarceration rate has been obvious for some time. For almost everyone, it has been clear since a three-judge panel ordered the California government to reduce its prison population. Apparently, the Governator has just realized it now and, unfortunately, he can’t just wave his magic wand and solve the problem of overspending on prisons. While he proposes to privatize prisons in order to reduce the spending, those familiar with Halliburton and their compatriots in Iraq will understand why that route is likely to create more problems than it solves. The real problem here is California’s sentencing laws. As long as we keep sending people to prison that really don’t need to be there, we’re going to be spending too much on prisons. Perhaps the pig and the pony can unlock cell doors – only, of course, for the prisoners who don’t really need to be there.

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